There’s not much going on at the moment, so let’s have a quick chat about Justin Timberlake produced Fox show Spin the Wheel, which promises a potential top prize of $23m.
In it, a person with an Inspirational Backstory (TM) is invited to spin the wheel up to 16 times. The first 12 spins have an attached question, getting it right adds the money to the bank, getting it wrong takes it away again. Wedges increase (and decrease into minus figures) in value as the game progresses, top values starting at $500,000 all the way up to $3m on spin sixteen.
Each round adds a new fillip – round two introduces the friend or family member who must make decisions from a pod, whether to double the value of the question or not.
Round three is the best round I think – there are four questions and four wedges to play for – a $250k, $500k, $1m and $2m. The contestant sees the first half of the question and must decide which wedge they want to play for. The jeopardy is that the bigger the wedge, the more “back to zero” spaces get added if they’re wrong. If they get it right the contestant can choose amongst how many spaces (1-4) they want to split it across evenly (replacing one of four $1, $10, $100 and $1,000 sections of the wheel). The wheel gets spun after every question.
In the final round there are no more questions, however the friend/family has to make a secret decision before each spin whether to bail with an offer or not – if the player hits a Back to Zero space, or they hit enough minus figures to go below zero, the game is immediately over. It’s the same mechanic from For The Rest Of Your Life basically, except the player must keep spinning to the end regardless and can’t decide to bail out themselves. Each spin adds a new mega money amount to the wheel, but also more Back to Zeros. In the end, the friend/family tries to keep a straight face as they tell the player whether they bailed or not.
There’s an OK show in here (as everyone has pointed out it’s basically a circular version of The Wall) but the big elephant in room is that they’ve somehow managed to make spinning a massive wheel seem a bit… dull? The player must push it to start it but the actual speed and length of spin is decided entirely randomly by computer and this is always going to feel a bit suspect when the bottom of the wheel is a BtZ area even though it’s almost certainly above board. It’s a similar sort of wheel to something like The Big Spin, with a bouncy ball inside determining what the selection is, but in not having the contestant have any meaningful input it lacks The Big Spin‘s actuality.
The other issue (and it’s an issue The Wall suffers with as well) is that the sums of money in play and flying about feel so large it feels like largely meaningless monopoly money. I struggled to engage with it all, I’m not sure I actually enjoyed it a great deal until the Build Your Wheel section.
Dax Shepard (from films) is, you know, fine, he can handle the game OK but is not a terribly engaging host in his own right.
Ultimately it feels like it’s missing something. From a gameplay progression point of view the format makes sense, but the first half an hour isn’t really doing much for me.